During the second half of the 2019 season and through two weeks in 2020, Kenyan Drake has established himself as a high-end NFL running back and a key performer for a team that is threatening to take the league by storm this term… the Arizona Cardinals. Here is an excerpt of my conversation with one of the most versatile runners in the NFL today.
Let's start with the business side of the NFL. How did it feel to be traded by the Miami Dolphins in the middle of last season?
My trade was brewing and there were rumours. I had an idea about where I might go but, to be honest, Arizona was not on my radar. Chris Grier, the Dolphins GM, called me personally and I had a good relationship with him and we had discussed the idea of me not being there. We had conversations. He called me around eight in the morning in Miami – the team was already in Pittsburgh for a Monday night game so I knew I was getting traded because I didn't travel with them. He told me I was going to be playing that Thursday night for the Cardinals. My first thought was, 'Wait, the Cardinals?' Thursday night was three days away. It was an eye-opening experience. I was happy to move on, get a new opportunity and a fresh start but I also wondered if I had bitten too much off having to play so quickly for a new team. I was really nervous because it was a big situation for me and I'm normally big on preparation. I landed in Arizona at 4pm local time that same day, got poked and prodded and then I went straight to the facility and met with my running backs coach (James Saxon) and head coach Kliff Kingsbury and it was straight into the fire. They welcomed me with open arms and I felt really comfortable.
What is it like playing with Kyler Murray?
He's not as small as people think he is. He's not 6-foot-4 by any means of the imagination but he's not 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-7… he's a solid 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11. He pushes the envelope in terms of his ability to run around when he's out there. He really is a great athlete and he makes it look so effortless because of his acceleration. I don't know if he's as fast as he thinks he is because he couldn't beat me in a race and you can quote me on that! I love the guy. He doesn't lack in confidence, he doesn't lack in arm strength and he doesn't lack in the ability to ad-lib and make a play when it may not seem like it is there. Defenses respect him for that. His arm talent is second to none. That makes my job much easier because they're not going to stack the box and they're not going to blitz him because they don't want him to escape out of the pocket and use his God-given ability to make plays. He makes my job easier so I love the guy.
There is much excitement around the Cardinals this year, especially following the offseason trade for DeAndre Hopkins. Do you remember what you thought when you heard about that move?
It was actually a whirlwind for myself at that time because I had just found out I had been transition tagged. So I was wondering, 'Am I going to be here or am I going into free agency?' Free agency was going to be a big deal because I had several teams who were going to create offers for me. We were going to see how everything went. I'm talking to my agent when I see a ticker on ESPN saying there has been a trade and we have DeAndre Hopkins. I was like, 'Well, if I'm planning to go into free agency, that's not going to make that decision any easier.' I was excited for the Cardinals because obviously DeAndre is a high-calibre receiver. He is a great athlete and I'm glad he's on my side now.
For Neil's full interview with Kenyan Drake check out The Neil Reynolds Podcast. The episode is streaming now wherever you get your podcasts.